With more than $800,000 accrued in club reserve accounts this year, GUSA’s Finance and Appropriations Committee tackled ways for club advisory boards to spend reserve funds for next year at its annual budgetary meeting on Wednesday.

After a six-hour meeting lasting until 12:30 a.m., the 13 voting members agreed on a budget in which many of the advisory boards will spend more reserve funds for fiscal year 2009.

The GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee consists of 13 board members, including seven GUSA senators and a student chair representing each of the six advisory boards: the Georgetown Program Board, the Student Activities Commission, the Center for Social Justice Advisory Board, the Media Advisory Board, the Advisory Board for Club Sports and the Performing Arts Advisory Council. The committee meets multiple times each year to discuss how the money from the activity fee will be allocated to the six advisory boards.

The GUSA appropriation does not take into account funding the advisory boards receive from university tuition, as well as from Coca-Cola, which maintains a contract with the university and funds all of the boards except for the Advisory Board for Club Sports, which was created after the contract was signed.

The committee also announced plans Wednesday to have a meeting before the end of the semester to further discuss long-term strategies in spending reserve funds as well as the current state of the endowment.

On Monday, the GUSA Senate will vote on the proposed budget. The budget must be passed by two-thirds of the senate and signed by GUSA President Pat Dowd (SFS ’09), at which point the money will be released to the six boards to allocate to individual clubs.

Zack Bluestone (SFS ’09), chair of the Finance and Appropriations Committee, said that the senate will examine how best to allocate excess reserve funds.

“I still think there needs to be a large discussion on what the nature of the reserve fund should be and what the nature of risk should be,” Bluestone said.

Several GUSA senators at the meeting were optimistic about passing the proposed budget at Monday’s GUSA Senate meeting.

“I have not met a single member of the committee that is not interested in passing the budget, and I think the senate will respect the opinions of the members of the committee,” GUSA Senator Matt Wagner (COL ’11) said.

But GUSA Senator Matt Stoller (COL ’08) said he is pushing for the senate to vote against the proposed budget, which he said would give more funding accountability to students because it would allow a new budget to be passed by a simple majority of the committee’s members. Seven out of 13 members of the committee are student-elected GUSA representatives.

He said he believes funding board chairs exercised an overwhelming influence in shaping next year’s budget, even though they represent a minority of the committee.

“It is ridiculous these unelected funding board chairs are kind of dictating the plan that [Dowd] and [GUSA Vice President James Kelly] got approved by GUSA,” he said.

Erika Cohen-Derr, director of student programs and a non-voting administrative advisor to the Media Board, said the meeting was productive in looking at what is best for next year.

“I thought it was a success. I thought it was a really thoughtful conversation,” she said. “I think everyone in the room had a collective sense of the importance of the task and what was in the best interest of students and student activities.”

The club sports advisory board received the largest amount allocated by GUSA’s Finance and Appropriations Committee, with funding increasing by 40.2 percent to $96,750. Both the Media Board and the Performing Arts Advisory Council took a hit in their budgets, with their allocations decreasing by 26.5 percent and 22.9 percent, respectively.

SAC received $25,000, the same allocation in the proposed budget as last year. During the meeting, SAC Chair Sophia Behnia (COL ’09) presented a proposal to spend more of SAC’s reserve fund in the upcoming year.

“Right now, we have $210,000 [in the reserve fund]. We definitely hope to spend $110,000 to get to $100,000,” she said. “We just took out $40,000, [so] if we do that for a couple of years, we need a hefty amount of money to withstand that.”

The Media Board, which has the second-highest reserve amount of $220,000, requested a smaller appropriation from the committee than last year. The board was allocated $35,000 of activity fee money, $8,000 less than last year’s request.

“The Media Board requested less money than we had requested last year. We did it in part because of the reserve fund,” Cohen-Derr said, in reference to an effort from the Media Board to spend more of its reserve this year.

According to GPB chair Jackie Mendez (SFS ’09), GPB hopes to keep their $47,509 in reserve due to the high costs of GPB’s concerts and performances. They received $22,000, a $6,000 increase from last year.

The CSJ Advisory Board put forth a proposal in which they would reduce their $140,630 reserve account to a target amount of $77,000.

The Performing Arts Advisory Council requested the same appropriation as last year: $35,000. However, the committee decided to decrease its allocation by $8,000, the largest percentage cut out of the six advisory boards.

As of February, the Performing Arts Advisory Council reserve fund had $136,153, and the council expects to spend some of its reserve by purchasing a $15,000-$20,000 dance floor for the dance studio in Riverside Lounge.

Ron Lignelli, managing director of the program in the performing arts, attributed the high reserve fund to the dual function of the reserve fund as both a reserve account and a checking account, which used to collect interest.

In addition to advisory board proposed funding, Dowd presented his GUSA Summer Fellow Initiative to the committee, which would offer low-income students with unpaid summer internships free summer housing at Georgetown. The members of the committee approved $10,820.25 to allow five students to participate in the pilot program. Dowd had requested $44,050, the total amount of the fiscal year 2008 surplus of student activities fees.

“One thing that a lot of students felt constrained with was summer housing without a steady stream of income,” Dowd said at the meeting. He noted that subsidized housing will count as income for tax purposes, which could discourage some students from entering the program.

GUSA Senator Taylor Price (MSB ’09) said that because a limited amount of funding was allocated to the summer fellows program, he is doubtful that the budget will pass in the senate.

“From what I know about allotments that were given out for this budget, I am disappointed that the funds to only five kids to participate in the summer fellows program was distributed,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise at all if the budget was not approved.”

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